Fall Ball Gets Underway with First Week of Practice
Sept. 20, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Three weeks of individual workouts and conditioning have finally moved aside for head coach Megan Smith to get her team together as Kansas softball's first week of fall practice began Monday at Arrocha Ballpark.
"It's always nice to get them back out there," Smith said. "We spend three weeks working on drills with specific players in their individual workouts, but it's always such an exciting day when we finally see them all together. It's fun for them and exciting for us as a staff - we've had a great first week."
Entering her fourth year, Smith welcomes eight newcomers to the 2013 roster, including former Olathe South Player of the Year, Alex Hugo, and Chaley Brickey, who was selected No. 22 on ESPN's High School softball recruiting class of 2012.
Individual preseason workouts have introduced the rookies to the Jayhawk standard of conditioning. Now, in the first week of team practice, the team can turn its focus to softball and working together as a unit.
"The first week is about the team concept - getting them out there together," Smith explained. "We work a lot on energy level, on hustle and on communication. That's our goal this first week. We've hammered fundamentals and the skills for three weeks during individuals and now we want to see them out there working as a team and see how they mesh together. We will do some team defensive concepts, some drills and some live-action, to get them out there as early as we can with that. We want to get them working together."
Communication was a strong point of the 2012 team, that posted a 31-20 record for the second-straight 30-win season under Smith. The 11 returning players, highlighted by Third Team Academic All-American and All-Big 12 First Team member senior Maggie Hull, are making it a primary focus to get the newcomers ready to compete as fall exhibition games begin Sept. 26.
"Our upperclassmen are doing a good job of leading the charge and getting everybody into it," Smith said. "As a new player, you're a little hesitant to jump in and make your mark. I think our freshmen and newcomers are learning, though, that they have the ability and our upperclassmen will allow them to do that, so we'll see them continue to grow throughout the fall."
In addition to the rookies, the Jayhawks also welcome back Alex Jones, who redshirted the 2012 season due to a torn ACL. Her leadership from the dugout and unyielding dedication during rehab last season earned her the team's Big Jay award. Now fully recovered, Jones can get back to work reclaiming her position as a two-year starter in the outfield and the pitching circle.
"Having A.J. (Alex Jones) back has been huge with her energy level and what she brings to practice; it's great to see her out there going full-speed," Smith said. "She and all of our returners are looking really good. It's great to see them help the younger players get acclimated to team practice. We've got some newcomers that have stepped in and been phenomenal early and we expect they're going to continue to look phenomenal throughout the fall."
Thursday afternoon brought a new element to the team's practice schedule as the coaching staff implemented "Competition Day" in which each position works to compete against each other as well as themselves. On Friday, the Jayhawks will take the field for the first full intrasquad scrimmage of the fall season.
According to Smith, the theme of the fall - and the upcoming spring season - is a simple but direct message: More.
"We've talked about that from the beginning, that we want more," Smith said. "We have to be competitive. (That's our focus), more - more competitiveness within the team, within themselves and relay into our competiveness against our opponents."
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